Marking: A discussion document for Maths departments

By Cordelia Myers (March 2019)

A group of maths HoDs asked me for some thoughts on marking. The NCETM already have an excellent marking policy in place. Surprisingly, there has been very little research into the impact of marking on teaching and learning so my comments are based only on experience and professional judgement.   This is a sensitive subject for me but here goes…

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The devil may make work for idle hands – but so can the angels

(The creative possibilities of being bored.)

By Mark Dawes (March 2019)

I was recently on a course day away from school and during a coffee break I was bored.  I had nothing to do and the others on my table were getting a cup of coffee, so I had no-one to talk to.

One of the pads of paper on the table was from a different organisation (nothing to do with the course I was on) and because I had nothing else to do I started thinking about the logo:

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Stars of the Cambridge Maths Hub!

By Mark Dawes (February 2019)

One of the great things about working with the Cambridge Maths Hub is that you get to meet and learn from lots of talented people.  It is therefore a real delight when some of those colleagues in the Hub are recognised nationally for their excellent work.

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Doing maths for the sake of it

By Mark Dawes (February 2019)

It is often noted that in certain subjects it is common for teachers to use elements of their subject in their personal and leisure activities.  For example, I know English teachers who write poetry, music teachers who regularly perform in concerts and write music, PE teachers who play for teams and drama teachers who also act and direct.  In my school there is a display titled “The Art of the Art Teachers”; all of the members of the art department are practising artists as well as being teachers.

So, what about maths teachers?  What do (or could) we do?

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Desmos 2 – Transformations of Graphs

Using Desmos – Transformations of Graphs

By Mark Dawes (January 2019)

If you are new to Desmos you might want to read my earlier blog Desmos – the basics first.

This blog will explore ways to use Desmos ( to teach transformations of graphs at GCSE and at A-level mathematics.  This isn’t a lesson plan but the ideas here could easily be used in lessons; there are a number of different alternatives (such as using sliders, relating graphs to tables and using function notation) that may be appropriate for different classes or at different levels.  I have written the things I suggest saying to the class in the form of instructions.  There are alternatives that will work as well, so these are merely suggestions.

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Judgement Calls in Teaching

By Mark Dawes, January 2019

Two anecdotes to begin with:

  • When I watch a football match, whether it’s a premiership match, a league two game or my son playing for his local team you can guarantee at some point half of the supporters will be yelling “shoot” while the other half shout “pass the ball”. The footballer in the thick of the action has to make a judgement call in about the best thing to do in a split second.
  • One Christmas my grandmother sent my father two ties as a present. On Boxing Day we arrived at my grandparents’ house, my father dutifully wearing one of his new ties.  My grandmother opened the door and the first thing she said was “didn’t you like the other tie?”.

Teaching is a series of decision.   The US researcher and teacher Deborah Loewenberg Ball found that in one 88-second section of one of her lessons she had to decide how to respond on 20 occasions (1).  That’s a decision every four and a half seconds.

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When Trainees Observe Lessons

by Mark Dawes, December 2018

My colleague Cordelia wrote earlier in the term [ ] about what senior managers should look for when observing a mathematics lesson.  This blog explores some of the things trainee teachers could do during their observations in their training year.  This might also be of use to others: those who are considering teaching as a career, those returning to teaching after time away and those preparing to teach a different subject from their usual one.

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EAL – a two-way process

by Mark Dawes, Nov 2018

Pupils who do not have English as their first language face a number of challenges when learning mathematics and may need support in different ways.

There seem to me to be several issues for pupils with English as an Additional Language (EAL):

  1. Use of mathematics-specific vocabulary
  2. Use of ordinary English
  3. Other mathematical norms
  4. Use of mathematics in their first language.
  5. Individual differences

I will expand on each of these in turn.

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Desmos – the basics

(by Mark Dawes, Nov 2018)

At a recent meeting several teachers expressed interest in hearing more about Desmos.  Here is an introduction to using the software.

Desmos is graph drawing software (and more, but that’s what we’ll focus on here) that is available via an app (for tablets and phones) or a website.

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What does a good maths book look like?

by Cordelia Myers

A group of secondary Head teachers asked me to consider “What does an effective maths lesson look like?” (a fascinating topic to think about). They then asked: “What does a good maths exercise book look like?” I have found this difficult. I have read around the topic, thought about it and asked a variety of respected colleagues. There is very little consensus.

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